Sunday, 25 August 2019

Why rebuilding ?

The price hike on international food markets in 2007-2008 was a turning point in world agriculture.
The crisis jolted governments of developing countries and their development partners into renewed
focus on agriculture after a long period of relative neglect. A broad consensus emerged, calling for
increased investments in agriculture and rural development in order to enhance productivity and meet
the heightened challenge of food security. The crisis also heightened awareness of the degree of
vulnerability for the majority of farmers in developing countries, who could not respond with higher
production because the expected supply response to rising prices did not occur.
For West Africa in particular, this episode reinforced the need for a major rethinking of agricultural
development and induced a policy correction towards staple food, which had been long neglected in
favor of a few export commodities. The West African governments also responded to the disruptions
to food trade by redefining food security in terms of self-sufficiency, increased reliance on domestic

supply of staple food crops and lower reliance on imports. In the short run, this gave rise to crisis-
induced interventions to stimulate production (national initiatives on rice, maize or cassava, depending

on the country) and a new impetus to raise productivity in the medium term. The crisis also gave a new
momentum to the CAADP process.
More importantly, the post-crisis environment gave rise to a new modus operandi giving greater
importance to broader agricultural diversification with increased focus on staple food crops. Considered
key to food security, these crops have now received more attention, with attempts to address the huge
productivity gaps. However, too narrow a focus on staple food products alone is neither feasible nor
desirable. The staple food markets would not be sufficient to harness the full agricultural potential in
West Africa, given the diversity of growing conditions and agro-ecological systems. Moreover, achieving
greater food security requires not only improving food availability but also requires greater access to
food which comes through enhanced sources of income that can be facilitated by diversification of
agricultural enterprises. Diversification must also continue to give due importance to cash crops and
exports, which continue to generate substantial revenues despite the relative erosion of global market
shares. Consequently, the new development paradigm embraces diversification that covers both food
staple crops and cash crops.
There is clearly a need to rebuild the West Africa food productive capacity through broad-based
diversified agriculture. Such rebuilding must be based on the triple objectives of enhancing productivity,
fostering market-based competitiveness and ensuring smallholder inclusiveness. In West Africa,
improving productivity requires disseminating yield-enhancing best practices, addressing the serious
soil fertility depletion, addressing land tenure pressures, and raising returns to labour. Improving
productivity also requires managing risks, tackling vulnerabilities, and strengthening resilience of staplefood production. Competitive agrifood value chains must rely on solid demand, supportive industries,
quality inputs and firm rivalry; agrifood chains also require an enabling legal and policy environment
and coordination among value chain actors.
It is essential to develop inclusive value chains in order to achieve stronger agricultural growth and
improve the livelihoods of the rural poor. Given the myriad constraints facing small-scale farmers,
greater effort must be deployed to ensure that markets are more inclusive of small-scale producers –
including women, who play a significant role in staple food value chains. Women face additional
constraints in accessing resources (land, credit, technology, training, extension) and therefore require
gender-targeted interventions. As an illustration, much of the rice produced in Burkina Faso is parboiled
by women, who play a central role in the potential development of the rice value chain; however,
women face a huge set of constraints (in access to credit, training, organization and capacity), which
prevents them from playing a far more dynamic role in turning rice into a thriving agro-industry.
Clearly, policy support is crucial to induce the required value chain transformation in West Africa.
Equally important is an understanding of the role of the key players essential for such transformation –
the public sector, private agro-industry, the finance sector, and the producers and their organizations.
Understanding the respective roles of each of these players is an essential part of formulating the
required market and institutional reforms and delineating the right policy environment.

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